The fifth largest city in Russia – the designated capital of Siberia – we’d had big hopes for this city but the weather turns bad as we arrive and doesn’t lift until we’re back on the road heading east. In the grey and gloom, Radka likens it to Ostrava in Czech Republic, 4000km ago.
I get stopped by the traffic cops for the first time and another illusion we had about Russia evaporates: the police aren’t after bribes and don’t see us as foreign cash machines. The best way to deal with them is to smile alot, say how excellent Russia is and then brandish an English-Russian dictionary for them to use to communicate the penalty that must be paid. They will instantly shy away from this book, with its tiny printing and many pages, and, after you have translated the words for ‘sorry’, ‘confused’, ‘honest mistake guvnor’, the cops will pretend that some more important call has come through and send you on your way.